I was open to being surprised, of course, but that's not why I decided to leave the house. I wanted to see how I felt sitting in a multiplex for the first time since Friday morning's blood bath in the Century 16, a multiplex in Aurora.
In the aftermath of the Aurora shootings, many commentators are wondering about the wisdom of allowing anyone to buy an assault weapon. Others are asking -- for what seems the gazillionth time -- whether extreme movie violence creates a climate that makes extreme real-life violence more likely.
Neither issue is likely to be resolved any time soon, but, larger questions aside, I figured I'd at least be able to tell whether I felt comfortable or on edge at a screening.
Would it be possible to get totally lost in a movie or would I (and everyone else) be tempted to take occasional looks over our shoulders? I flew as soon as the airports opened after Sept. 11, and, like almost everyone who was airborne during those grief-stricken days, I approached airports and planes with a transformed consciousness. Would it be the same for movies? Would it be worse for those of us who live in the Denver area?
Of course, I also had to ask myself whether Step Up Revolution might be too wimpy for a nervousness test. I checked the movie's rating. PG-13. Same as Dark Knight Rises. Off I went.
And what the hell are we supposed to do about all of this anyway?
There's simply no way to attend movies without congregating with strangers. That's the nature of the situation, and it's part of what made the Century 16 an appealing target for a shooter. We can't live without being willing to encounter people we don't know and who we'll probably never see again. Most of the time, it works out.
So how did I feel?
Well, a little on edge to tell you the truth. I don't usually plot an escape route from a theater, but this time, I looked for the exit signs. When people got up during the movie, I squinted through the darkness, wondering where they might be heading.
The movie? One scene in Step Up Revolution gave me a moment's pause.
The movie is about young dancers who turn up in public places, initially to express their "art" and later as a form of protest. They want to keep a developer from destroying their neighborhood. In one of the movie's protest dances, the dancers -- who call themselves The Mob -- infiltrate a reception that the developer is giving for Miami politicians, the city council, I think.
The Mob specializes in making unusual or dramatic entrances. This time, they roll out canisters and dance their way through clouds of smoke. They're wearing gas masks.
Canisters. Gas masks. "Great," I thought to myself, an unfortunate coincidence that reminded me of what happened in Aurora.
I have no idea whether anyone else cared or even noticed.
Step Up Revolution -- in 3-D by the way -- is part of a glossy series of movies in which, among other things, angry impulses are channeled into dance. It's a movie without weapons, and it seems mostly designed to appeal to younger audiences who want to watch hotties of both sexes while experiencing the mild jolts of rebelliousness that stem from dancing in forbidden places -- in the middle of a traffic jam or in an art gallery (the movie's most inventive sequence). I'm not planning to review the movie, a task that might be better left to teenage girls. Still, I'm glad I went.
No, I didn't really expect anything to happen, and I'm not about to stop going to the movies, even as we grow nostalgic for the times when all we had to fear was that the person behind us would be talking, texting, kicking the back of our chairs or checking his or her cell phone during a screening.
There's plenty to complain about when it comes to the contemporary theatrical experience, but I suspect most of us won't give it up. Our edginess will diminish, even as we remember the horror inflicted on those for whom the movie experience will never be the same, even as we realize that a crime of this magnitude steals a bit more of our precious trust.
Let's be honest, though. Half the time, the worst thing that can happen in a multiplex is the damn movie. At least for a while, we might do well to consider that a blessing.